Opinion | Christmas adverts bring us closer together


By Lydia Pazzi-Axworthy, MA, Comparative Literature and Cultures

Every year on the first of November, without fail, the season suddenly switches overnight from Halloween to Christmas. Shops change their window displays, Christmas lights start going up around each town, and Christmas adverts flood our TV screens.

In the past decade, these adverts have gained an almost cult-like status, getting the nation excited about the upcoming Christmas season from the comfort of their homes and triggering the start of Christmas festivities. But how have these adverts gained so much traction and what has allowed them to dictate when Christmas begins?

I could be cynical and put it down to the fact that Christmas has become one of capitalism’s largest contributors, with brands promoting their products through the façade of Christmas spirit, while in fact reeling in the large profits that only improve their economic position.

But the Christmas spirit isn’t about being cynical, and Christmas adverts aren’t just about companies and their monetary gain. The arguably more important reason Christmas adverts signal the beginning of Christmas, is precisely  because they promote families coming together and being with each other on Christmas.

Emanating from these adverts is the cosy safeness that people strive to achieve each Christmas; showing people of all ages sitting round the table sharing jokes; inspiring others to help those in less fortunate positions. This is the essence of Christmas adverts.

It is easy to suggest that Christmas has become all about receiving, but adverts mainly promote the idea of giving and generosity. For example, we all remember the 2011 John Lewis advert, where the little boy, visibly impatient for the arrival of Christmas Day, isn’t excited about receiving his own presents, but giving a gift to his parents instead. This message inverts the idea of acquiring, and encourages people to seek joy in offering presents instead.

Brands have done all they can to keep spirits high

These adverts demonstrate how to express your love for someone with a heartfelt present and the wonderful effect it has on a person.

This message of Christmas kindness is particularly important this year, after all the trouble that 2020 has caused, as a year of cancellations.

COVID-19 saw birthdays, Easter, summer holidays and family gatherings all put on hold. The exciting celebrations that structure everyone’s year were taken away, and not least, we have been prevented from seeing family and friends. This year, more than ever, Christmas seems to be a sign of hope in a dark year, of no longer feeling isolated, but instead restoring that sense of unity and warmth to the nation.

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The adverts this year, made from a smaller budget as a result of the economic decline caused by COVID-19, have reverted to more simple ideas and messages of spreading love and kindness. There are fewer images of families gathered around the table together, as this won’t necessarily be possible this year, and instead more light-hearted or inspiring ideas.

For example, Tesco’s jokes that this year there “is no naughty list” and that everyone should be treating themselves; and Amazon shows a young girl arranging a dance recital for her sister to perform in on the roof of their building for the neighbouring flats to look out and watch. This shows a desire for brands to demonstrate their understanding of such a difficult year through their adverts and promote optimism.

After the havoc wreaked this year, brands have done all they can to keep spirits high. The adverts seem to say that while Christmas might not be the same this year, we deserve to celebrate it in any way we can. And so with that, I say: ‘Hark, the Herald Adverts sing: time for Christmas to begin!’.

Featured Image: Epigram / Jack Crockford

Do you think that Christmas adverts help improve the festive spirit?